Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Why is there a misconception that the EU has done the UK no good?

Following our ongoing discussions about the EU’s economic costs/benefits (as part of this apparent series – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – trying to cut through the spin about the EU and get to the facts), from a letter in today’s European Voice, four points I hope to return to in more detail soon:

Regional policy was introduced to benefit the UK when it joined the EU and, in general, it did a good job of cushioning the UK’s conversion away from heavy industry. So why is there a massive misconception in the UK that the EU has done it no good?

Firstly, EU money has very often been spent without advertising it as EU money.

Secondly, the English seem to think the country’s growth since the early 1980s was all down to Margaret Thatcher. But all EU countries enjoyed a boom of sorts for about ten years after accession. If the UK’s growth is down to anyone, it is down to Ted Heath, who took it into the EU.

Thirdly, people overlook the ‘single-market effect’: outside companies wishing to reside in the single-market area frequently prefer a location where English is spoken.

Fourthly, UK politicians’ excessive use of spin has robbed the EU of credit and, worse, has often unfairly blamed it for problems.

The second point is poorly put and hard to justify, but the rest succinctly outlines some of the fundamentals. The first and fourth points in particular are vital in understanding why people have such a low opinion of the EU. More on this soon, I hope…


  1. Given that the UK is a net contributor to the EU, ‘EU cash’ in point one is ‘UK Cash’ that has been through another set of bureaucracy, surely?

  2. There is no such thing as “EU Money”

    Any money the EU spends in the UK has been taken from UK Taxpayers under threat of violence. This money could have been spent in the UK directly by the UK government. I do not feel grateful that the EU deigns to return some of our money, but to beneficiaries that it chooses.

  3. Regional aid is just money taken from the people of Britain and part paid back to pursue projects that are approved by the EU’s provincial enforcers, the Regional Assemblies and the Regional Development Agencies. The ordinary person has absolutely no say; consultation is an exercise in consulting and ignoring.

    Also, why doesn’t the EU assist Germany to ‘cushion its conversion away from heavy industry’? Why must Britain give up its heavy industry?

    First point – already made above, EU money is our own money.

    Second point – and I note that we have now gone from the UK to ‘the English’. There was a worldwide upturn in the Thatcher years. How, in hell, do we attribute this to Ted Heath and the EU? (You are winding us up, aren’t you?) In fact, it seems to me that the only time that we came a cropper was when we were dragged into the ERM.

    Third point – how on earth can such a point be proven? Besides, English is almost a universal language. I’m sure that all of those adulating EU acolytes of Obama understand every word of their new Messiah.

    The fourth point is absolutely ridiculous – British politicians never talk about the EU. The resigning Caroline Flint complained that as Europe Minister, she had only been invited to one Cabinet meeting in the last six months.
    The EU has no business regulating on such things as quince jam or fire extinguishers in the UK. If the EU wants to employ useless bureaucrats and phoney lawyers to create endless laws and regulations in order to justify taking money from the working man’s pocket they deserve all the blame and spin coming their way. I find it hard to shed too many tears for a poor misunderstood EU. They are not too upset, they are laughing all of the way to the bank.

    Really Nosemonkey, if this is the standard of debate in European Voice I think you could well add anothere string to your bow. I should drop by and slip your CV under the door (Incidentally, shouldn’t that be EU voice or is it really a European rag?)

  4. Stuart / Marsany / WG – Point taken on the nature of “EU money”. I’ll get back to it (soon, I hope – probably in another post).

    WG specifically – the second point is a bit dodgy (to put it mildly), I don’t deny it.

    The third point can’t be “proved” exactly, but there have been a number of examples of non-European multinationals stating that they have invested in the UK thanks to its EU membership and the access to the Common Market that this provides. I’ll try and dig out some examples in the next couple of days (it’s getting late at the moment…). Though, to be fair, the power of the City of London in the global financial system has also been a major draw, as have specifically British incentives. EU membership is just one factor among several – but (in some cases) an important one.

    The fourth point still stands, even with your complaints, however. The lack of politicians talking about the EU and crediting it where credit is due is just as much part of the spin. (And not just politicians – witness the recent adverts by the various mobile phone companies making out that they have voluntarily dropped their international roaming charges, when in fact they have been forced to by the EU…)

    Finally, to be fair to European Voice (it’s published by the Economist group, so nothing to do with the EU that I’m aware of), this was only a letter, so it’s not indicative of their usual standards. Still, if you want to pester them to hire me, I certainly won’t complain…

  5. “(And not just politicians – witness the recent adverts by the various mobile phone companies making out that they have voluntarily dropped their international roaming charges, when in fact they have been forced to by the EU…)”

    They were bound to make the best of the situation, of course the other side of the coin is that this is likely to increase normal mobile charges to make up the shortfall from subsidizing the roaming charges.

  6. Misconception or just a pure irrational prejudice? From my 3 years living in England, I can say that the English media, is the most virulent and non-constructively critical against the EU than other EU countries that I previously lived in (France and Germany). The English public itself is no better, as there seem to be a hard-wired prejudice that anything from the continent, especially Brussel, must be treated with contempt.

    1. Historical arrogance: Having “won” the past few wars fought in Europe, I personally think that the English (and the Brits) subconciously feel superior and therefore, will take no “orders” or “suggestions” from the weak ones. I find it tad distasteful when people here “defend” the sterling based on their national pride, whilst implying that francs, d-mark, lira, etc were less significant in their respective country.

    2. The political elite’s secret agenda to maintain control over its electors: In my very rudimentary understanding of politics, the EU, ideally, champions to a large extend, a rather social democratic model of governance, or more sensationally put, “the power to the people” model. Whereas in the UK, people seem to be in the opinion that a social democratic government = communism = death of personal freedom. What I think the Brits are missing out is a true representative democracy and an exit from their current neo-feudalistic political landscape (NFPL). NFPL is characterized by the monopoly of the country’s wealth by the very few, and their incredible feat in tricking the population into thinking that the current right-wing politic in the UK guarantees “equal” opportunities to those that “work hard”.

    ps: I used the term “English” and “England” generously because i) I have not lived in Scotland or Wales or NI; and ii) I do not believe in the concept of “Britain” as a true identity or country. Britishness is a forced identity sold by politician trying too hard to be Politically Correct.